Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cash = Oxygen

The title of this post is very, very familiar to pretty much anyone who has heard me speak on my book titles, Mission-Based Management, Financial Empowerment or Nonprofit Stewardship. Cash is really, really important.

So much so that the July issue of the Mission-Based Management Newsletter is on the subject of Better Cash Planning. Here's an excerpt from the Management Tip....

"Many nonprofit board and staff describe themselves as "non-financial" managers. In other words, they come to the issue of managing their organization's finances second, after coming first to the mission. For staff, they may be trained as social workers, teachers, nurses, or environmental engineers. They worked for their organization and a mission they loved, and then got promoted and were forced to deal with budgets. First they learned about income and expense sheets, the core of a budget. Then, as they moved up the food chain, they had to deal with balance sheets, and the mysteries of accrual accounting. They learned how to read their auditor's reports and understand financial ratios. All well and good.

But in a surprising number of cases, no one ever emphasized the importance of cash. And cash, (people who have heard me speak know what's coming:) cash = oxygen. Without it your organization dies, and very, very quickly. While income and expense statements are important, and balance sheets offer crucial information, without cash, all else is for naught."

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Help make your case---visibly

Google has announced that it will tutor and help nonprofits use its Google Earth service through what it is calling Google Earth Outreach. The program, complete with tutorials, allows you to use the mapping and satellite imagery to make your mission statement more compelling.

Think: "We need funds for our group homes" with a map that shows your existing facilities and the unmet needs in your community.

Think: "Where can I make a donation to Goodwill when I'm on vacation?" With a map of Goodwill donation boxes by zip code, and a map of how to get there.

Think: "Our mission is to stop deforestation" with close up images from space of what deforested land looks like.

This is a terrific resource, only limited by our imagination. Check it out.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Good for Goodwill

Interesting weekend in Pittsburgh.

I attended my first Goodwill Industries International (GII) Delegate Assembly, and was officially elected to, and sworn in on, the board of directors. Great people doing great mission.

One of the highlights for me was the address to the delegates by GII's CEO, George Kessinger. George challenged every Goodwill to go more and more green, whether it be their vehicles, their buildings, their energy use (and source)...any way that they can model the organization's value of "Stewardship" to include stewardship of the planet.

OK, so why haven't I heard this more from other national nonprofits? I'm sure I've missed some, but you don't see this as a headline in the Chronicle of Philanthropy (who are pretty good at catching and reporting on trends in our sector).

So, here's the challenge. What is your nonprofit doing to be more green, to have its staff and board be more green in their homes and businesses? A good stewardship challenge.

Good for you, George, good for Goodwill, and good for all of us

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wrapping things up, opening new packages

Been a while since I posted, mostly due to getting our house ready to put on the market (which happened yesterday), doing a bunch of summer travel planning and a couple of larger consulting contracts. I've also been setting up stuff at our new home in Virginia, doing things like starting cable and phone service, getting our move date set, etc. Wrapping up 30 years in Springfield feels a bit odd.

Today I leave for Pittsburgh and the beginning of a volunteer experience I've been looking forward to. I've been asked to join the board of directors of Goodwill Industries International, and, if all goes to plan, will be elected by their delegate assembly on Sunday. I've worked with many Goodwills over the years, and have always been impressed by their staff and board commitment to their mission. I'm looking forward to renewing old acquaintances, to meeting new and interesting people and , hopefully, to helping the cause.

I feel like I'm opening a present.....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sad, but true

All of us with email accounts get a certain amount of spam, no matter how good our ISP's or organization's filters are. Some of it is just stupid, some of it is just....inappropriate. And, all of us know that there are lots of places online that minors should not tread.

So what do you do about content filtering if your nonprofit allows net access as part of its work? How can you keep minors (and others who might be offended) from coming eyes to screen with stuff they don't want to (or need to) see?

Techsoup to the rescue, yet again. In a two part series on Content Filtering, they lay out the issue and talk about the best fixes. Check out part one and part two, which is a FAQ.

Also, pay attention to your domain name registration. If it expires, even for 24 hours, it can be scooped up by a porn site and then imagine what your donors will think of you....I've heard this scenario three times in the past year, so double check the expiration date, and even pay the registration fee early--and for the longest period you can buy.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bright eyes - Urbana edition

Busy week. Chris officially retired and cleaned out her classroom, then she and I dove into preparing for a big garage sale, and worked on getting our house ready to put on the market next week. Lots, and lots, and lots of work. But I', beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it looks a lot like a sunset on Smith Mountain Lake (where we're moving in August).

But Friday night, we got a delightful break. I had been invited to speak at the welcome dinner of the University of Illinois's Social Entrepreneurship Summer Institute, I suspect because they are using my book of the same name as their core text. The SESI students were a mixed group, some undergraduate, some local nonprofit staff.

Chris and I had dinner with three delightful undergraduate students before my talk. The audience was very attentive, and wonderfully responsive. Regular readers know my love of"bright eyes", and they were there in abundance. Thanks to all in attendance.

What intrigued me, and the reason for this post, was the differentiation generationally between the responses I got for two of my "stock" stories. I am so used to speaking to adult audiences, or grad students, that I tend to overlook the experience differences when I get the chance (too rarely) to interact with undergrads.

One of the stories is about poor stewardship in agencies that do the same unsuccessful fundraiser year after year. For people who have heard me speak, this is the "Chicken Dinner" story....and everyone over 30 in the room got it, nodded, or laughed (sometimes with some guilt). The undergrads? They were polite, but you could see them looking at the "old" people wondering what was so funny. No fundraising scars on them....yet.

I thought about that on the way home....and it gave me hope. Many of these young people are going to embark on careers in nonprofits, and perhaps NOT have to learn by experience some of the same mistakes we've made in our generation. Hopefully, the broad array of available educational opportunities in nonprofit management and leadership, that were NOT around when we Boomers came into the field, will help smooth the ride for the next generation.

I know, I know, some stuff you just have to mess up in person to really "get". But if the amount of error is reduced say, 40%? How great would that be?